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The Magical Pool

For my goddaughter Lara. A beautiful ray of sunshine. It was very early in the morning and Otto the Octopus was still sound a...

Monday, 11 October 2010

Swimming with fish

        At six thirty her alarm clock went off like it had been going off day after day ever since she could remember. She knew the drill, get up, wash, dress, have a bite to eat and go to work. Why should today be any different?
       Once on the landing she pushed the button. That minute or so it took for the lift to get there always seemed longer. Why was that? There. She held her briefcase tightly against her legs as the lift descended. Thirty-second. Thirty-first. Thirtieth. Halting on the twenty-eighth. The door opens to let somebody else in but nobody is there. Twenty-ninth. Twentieth. Door opens again. Nobody. She wishes there were somebody there.
        The door opens twice more before reaching the ground floor. She goes out without once looking in the mirror behind her.
v
        Nobody said anything. In fact they didn’t even look up as she came into the staff room. Fifteen years she had worked for that company, you would think they would remember her birthday. Nothing. Not even a hello. Why should they when she herself hadn’t bothered to put on the new dress she had bought especially for the occasion just the week before. She had promised herself her life would be different come her birthday. Ridiculous. How could a dress have such a life altering effect? Besides, had it ever possessed any magical powers they had disappeared into thin air even before she had reached the lift.
        Would they notice if one day she didn’t turn up for work? And the next and the next…Forever…Never?
v
        If you want it you’ve got to make it happen. Wise words. At least they hit a nerve when her favourite TV show host uttered them.
        ‘They make so much sense,’ she mused, a shiver of excitement running down her spine as she experienced her epiphany. ‘It’s now or never.’ She grabbed her jacket and handbag and left the house. Even the lift seemed different, floating gently down the thirty-three floors. And for the first time in so many years – she could hardly remember when – the doors opened and someone got on. She looked up at the glistening red number above the door – twentieth. Nobody ever seemed to be there when the lift stopped to pick up more passengers. She had always wondered who would call the lift and then not get on.
        He was in his late forties, his jeans held up by a belt just under his potbelly, his shirt unbuttoned to right above his navel, and a thick gilt cross dangling from a chain around his neck. He was picking at his teeth with the long nail on his pinkie. Not the most attractive sight but she would have loved to hear him say ‘Good afternoon’.
        If you want it you’ve got to make it happen. If you want it you’ve got to make it happen. If you want it you’ve got to make it happen. With the confidence bestowed on her by the power of three she found herself saying ‘Good afternoon’. However, either her voice came out too feeble only mumbling the words or the man ignored her by picking at his teeth with more passionate diligence, adding a few slurping sounds as he did so.
        Her spirits would not be broken. After all, the fact that someone had actually got on the lift at all was a good sign, wasn’t it?
        She went into a couple of shops and browsed though the clothes racks completely unnoticed. None of the shop assistants wasted a second’s glance on her.
        In the window of the next shop there was the loveliest navy-blue porte manteau she had ever seen. This is what she wanted, discreet yet classy. She would wear it on her birthday next week. It would help her start again with a clean sheet.
        She went in and asked to try it on. It was the only one left and seemed to be her size. How lucky could she get?
        The shop assistant gave her a long hard head to toe stare and asked wouldn’t she rather try one of the other dresses more in her price range. With her face as hot as a blacksmith’s iron she said no, that one would do fine. In the changing room her head was twirling around in anger and shame, more shame than anger truth be told, and just went through the motions of undressing, trying on the dress, and putting her own clothes back on without once looking at herself in the mirror.
        ‘I’ll take it.’ Yes, indeed it was more than she could afford, but she could not backtrack now.
        The early high crumbled away with every step she took and by the time she reached the lift her head hung low, crestfallen, while her arm dragged the unbearably heavy bag with the blue dress.
        Once bubbling with promises of a new life, the dress was thrown, unbagged, into the deepest and darkest recesses of the wardrobe. She then went to bed only to wake up the following morning to the sound of the alarm clock. It was six thirty.
v
        ‘Janet.’ She startled when she heard her boss’s voice over the intercom. It wasn’t because she wasn’t Janet, she’d got used to that a long time ago. Janet had been his first secretary about twenty-five years ago and he had never bothered to learn any of the subsequent secretaries’ names. She had given up correcting him. She always signed her emails with her own name but he never acknowledged it. In fact he never read the name. He never wasted time and had always known what was really important and needed his attention and what was futile. After all, his nickname was ‘the Money-making Machine’. He knew he was good and so did everyone else. No, what caught her off guard was the fact that he actually used the intercom. He never spoke to her, not even to return her ‘Good morning, Mr Lynch’ as he walked past her desk in the morning. It was like she was invisible. What is more, she could go for days without seeing him. Some days he was the first to arrive, others he got in while everyone else was out for lunch. Truth be told they really didn’t need to communicate. Everything could be done through emails these days.
        ‘Shall I come into your office, Mr Lynch?’ Perhaps he had been looking at the personnel files she had left on his desk the previous evening and realised it was her birthday. She trembled with emotion.
        ‘No, that won’t be necessary. As you know – she did not, but would soon find out – we’ve decided to restructure and we must let some people go. Stop by the Human Resources this afternoon so we can get the paperwork started. We won’t be needing your services anymore. In the meantime, mail me the documents on Smith and Co.’
        ‘But…’ But nothing. He had already hung up.
        She couldn’t stop shaking. ‘Calm down. Calm down. Concentrate on the light. I am surrounded in the pure light of energy. I am surrounded in the pure light of energy. I am surrounded in the pure light of energy…’
        Surrounded…Light…Energy…And finally she stopped shaking and her mind was filled with his presence. ‘It’s time. You’re ready. Meet me on the cliff where the gulls meet. There’s a bench by the edge. Wait for me there.’
        Now she was trembling with excitement. He had never sounded so real. Actually, it was the first time her guide had spoken to her; until then he had just been a soothing presence that made her feel that everything was all right.
        She stood up, put on her jacket and without once looking back or saying a word to anyone, she left the office.
        She would go there now.
v
        ‘Wheeeeeee… – I can fly! The lightness. The freedom. The beauty. And look at those birds – they actually want to be with me! See? I can fly too!’
        Closing her eyes, she let the cool breeze flirt with her face and tease her hair. For the first time in her life she felt the warmth of being alive.


        She could also feel herself falling rapidly.
        She opened her eyes and had but a moment’s glimpse of the parading silver fish in the cold grey water before she joined them.
        ‘Ouch, that hurt. I absolutely must work on my dive.’
        ‘Look at me, look at me, I can swim and twirl like a mermaid.’
        And then there was silence. A deep dark lonely silence.
v
        It was in that drowning silence that Lydia heard her heart beating for the first time.
v
        She found herself running down a broad palace corridor, circling the tall ornate columns. Everything was happening so fast she felt dizzy. Or perhaps it was just her sudden spiralling descent down the cold stone staircase. She didn’t know where she was going or why she was running like mad; it was as if a strong magnetic force was pulling her downwards.
        There was activity on every landing but either it was just too far off for her to make out what was happening or she was in too much of a hurry to stop to see what was going on. On one of the landings stood a majestic angel surrounded by a bright yellow light, looking right at her.
        Invaded by such powerful feelings of well being and love, a split second she did stop, wishing she could stay. But she couldn’t…the force calling her from the centre of the earth was just too powerful, so she resumed her descent.
v
        The transformation was going on at cell level. She could feel it.
        By the time she reached the bottom she was wearing a long silver cloak and her hair was now waist-long and of a silvery-white colour. In front of her lay a long dark corridor lit only by the light coming from the yellow ball of fire she was carrying between her hands. At the end of the corridor a wooden crib, waiting to receive the ball of fire, which promptly turned into whizzing fireworks of colour. The young woman was so ecstatic with joy that she was unable to restrain tears from rolling down her cheeks. Those were tears of blood.
        One moment it was blood, the next, ritual paint on the face of a young Indian woman’s face, kneeling on the ground and fervently rubbing sticks to start a fire. She was chanting the chant of life:

Fire, Fire,
Burning high
The time has come
Reach for the sky!


Painted faces staring high
All the while
Tired feet
digging deep
The barren ground

To the beat of
Chaos
Do they go

Illuminate us,
Oh Slender Flames!
Guide us through the woes of time


Burn the pain of
Tortured lives
Let their ashes
Fill the plains
With seeds of hope –
If but for a day

        There were no flames. Instead, a dense smoky figure of a bearded man materialised, pointing to the high mountain way off in the horizon. That was where she had to go.
        Up and up she climbed and before her strength failed, she turned into a mountain lion. At the top of the mountain the lion changed into a man who looked around, far and beyond to choose the way he would go, then, as he leaped off into the abyss, an eagle he became. The eagle flew bravely against the strong winds until the need for another transformation arose. This time a winged horse was summoned to meet the challenge…
v
        A woman tries to calm the tired beast down. ‘Calm down. Calm down, ‘ she says stroking Pegasus between his eyes, ‘the world is not about to vanish. You are not going to vanish.’ …And little by little did Lydia return.
v
        With her hand still on Lydia’s forehead the woman engraved these words of Time in her mind:

Across a field of
Daffodils
The little prince goes
A gush of wind – And the
Whole world he knows
Dissolves.
Now a woman,
In the wind she sways
On her head – A warm bushy
Crown of leaves
Prancing to the cliffs she goes
Dive!
The silver fish implore below
Fly!
The hungry seagulls cry above
Stop! Jump no more!
The yellow daffodils pray aloud
Don’t you see?
It’s time to stay
Root your feet deep in the ground
With your branches brush the clouds away
Now an Oak,
Seize the day
And learn this life as well
As a fleeting moment in all eternity
Floats away

        ‘You’re ready. Go back and live this life of yours.’
v
        Now, bearing the strength of the Indian woman, the mountain lion, the man, the eagle and the winged-horse, Lydia sets off again on her very long walk home – along a river, down the rocky walls of a majestic waterfall. Only once along her way does she stop – to bend down and pick a yellow daffodil. Before her nose can touch the flower, she finds herself back by the crib where a baby boy lies. She knows what she must do. She picks him up and carries him up the spiralled staircase.
        At the top of the staircase a man is waiting for her. She hands the baby over to him.
        In a tight hug they become one. Everything is as it should be…or perhaps not quite, for she is invaded by a feeling of restlessness, of something left undone.
v
        Haunted by the angel on the landing below she decides to go back. Time is running out, she can feel it. But she needs to know.
        ‘Who are you?’
        ‘Aerial,’ he replies warmly.
        ‘Is there a message for me? Is there something you want to tell me?’
        ‘No. Just to wish you a happy birthday.’ A hint of amusement reflected in his warm eyes.

        ‘It’s not my birthday. My birthday’s in March. It isn’t in September, is it?’
        That was when she came to herself. What kind of tricks was her mind playing on her? One moment she had jumped off the cliff, the next moment she was still standing there…
        With her legs shaking, she stepped back from the edge and sat on the ground.

        Aerial… so that was his name. Her guardian angel! He had done more than just wish her a happy birthday: He had actually led her through death and guided her back to life. She would jump no more. She would dig her feet deep into her life and brush the gloomy clouds away.

        Hello. My name is Lydia and my birthday is on 2nd of September.



- COPYRIGHT/Registado no IGAC


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